Before we delve into this list, we’re defining a 90’s Geek Film as one that was set out to entertain geeks. Therefore we’re going to include the likes of the 90’s Batman films, but not things like Home Alone which went on to become a cult classic. Some films toe the line between geeky and simply a good movie, so some of these may be contentious. Without further adieu, these are our Top 10 90’s Geek Films.
10) The Mask – 1994
Among the faces that defined the 90’s, the overworked and excessively stretched face of Jim Carrey was certainly the best suited to bring one of the most obscure comics in the world to life. While The Mask may have tamed the true nature of Big Head and toned down the gory violence and general obscenity that would have stripped it of its family friendliness, there’s no denying that it made superb use of Carrey’s cartoonish approach to acting… which sounds like an insult but…
Balancing the roles of the agent of chaos and his shrinking violet counterpart Stanley Ipkiss, we get a glimpse into the kind of diversity Carrey could bring to the screen, right at the height of his popularity. It was also the first appearance on screen of Cameron Diaz… ever! As a leading lady no less, or at least the major love interest (I always like Peggy).
9) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) vs Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)
Whilst we can’t say for sure which of these two iconic power teams is the greatest, there’s no doubt they were the best. In the 90’s, the two big teams were the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Between these two multi-person teams, we had martial arts, an eccentric master, an even more eccentric villain – and all of this was done with a straight face, regardless of how campy it all was.
The Power Rangers enjoyed a reboot in 2017, where we got a whole new team and an excellent story. The Turtles, meanwhile, have had a few bumpy films, but ultimately they were just as campy as the originals… But they did get WWE star Sheamus in on the movies. I dunno, it’s hard to pick which of these two super teams were better, so it’s up to you to decide:
8) The Crow – 1994
The film franchise that won’t stay dead, The Crow tells the tale of a revenant who walks the world in search of vengeance for his own death. It was cool, action packed, well written and directed given the circumstances, but it’s by far more famous for the tragedy that befell the production. The star, Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, died on set after a prop gun mishap, forcing major reshoots, rewriting, and heavy special effects work to bring his last, and arguably best performance to the world.
Based on the comic of the same name, The Crow would go on to spawn three sequels, a TV series, and a futuristic sequel penned by Rob Zombie that sadly never made it to production, but the slate has not been completely wiped. Many attempts have haunted production limbo, the most recent to perish would have started Jason Momoa. But no matter how many attempts fail, the idea never seems to die.
7) The Phantom Menace – Star Wars Episode 1 – 1999
Okay, hold on, do not persecute us for this. We couldn’t put this one any higher on this week’s list, even if you want to scream about it being Star Wars. The film did well, like, very well. It was a commercial success, breaking many a box office record. However, that doesn’t justify it to be placed any higher on the list. However, if you’re a fan of Star Wars in general, then Episode 1 was an addition to a great series.
Notice I haven’t given it high praise? Well, not many people did. It’s got generally mixed reviews, mostly due to some of the characterisation. Jar Jar Binks in particular is a character that is met with vitriol from a passionate fanbase, albeit this is of no way the fault of the actor. A bad script for a character that was just hated – Not much can save that… Nevertheless, it’s still a Star Wars and the only major one of the 90’s!
6) Interview with the Vampire (1994)
What happens when you take a traditional vampire story and transcend it? This is what you get. Interview with the Vampire is a wonderfully crafted story, telling of the vampire Louis, portrayed by Brad Pitt. Unlike most other vampire movies, Interview with the Vampire likes to take on a slow, methodical pace. It introduces us to the concept that Vampires know they are powerful and want to flaunt their powers.
Through the film, Louis gets interviewed by a mortal. He recants tales of when Lestat attacked him, turning him into a Vampire in the first place. The moral dilemma that Louis faces is he doesn’t want to kill, whereas Lestat takes pleasure in the hunt and killing of humans. With this, the story is set and it becomes a big scoop for the reporter. Great film, at least from a narrative perspective.
As an aside, Anne Rice regained the rights to her books in 2016. They’re apparently working on a TV series for The Vampire Lestat. Nice!
5) Batman Returns – 1992
The Caped Crusader would not be in safer hands for many years to come, and while Tim Burton would never get to finish the trilogy we’d all have loved, he did create one of the finest pairings of villain and actor in Danny Devito’s Penguin, and perhaps no director could ever have done a finer job with the stunted mobster. Twisting Cobblepot into a beastial circus freak with the charisma to lead a city was quite the dramatic turn, but it was uniquely suited to that era of Batman.
It would also be the last appearance of Michael Keeton’s surprisingly good Batman (Oh by the way, add Beetlejuice to the list of films that trailed off the bottom of the list for one reason or another), although his body of work since would imply he never really let go of the cape. Michelle Pfeifer was also the best Catwoman to make it to the big screen, and no one but no one could have created Max Schrek and had him fit so seamlessly into the world. If I were to properly sing this film’s praises it would need a list of its own.
4) Ghost In The Shell – 1995
The original Ghost in the Shell was a hugely important film for anime fans everywhere. The concept of androids and cyborgs take centre stage, as we are presented with a sci-fi that really helped bring anime to the forefront of media. Really, before this, there was Akira – And then this. That was kind of the introduction that mainstream audiences needed to anime, as it was everything that anime wanted to boast.
Crisp, beautiful animation, mixed with a complex but easy-to-follow story, Ghost in the Shell is one of those rare films that has the best of all worlds. The highly adult theme of the film just adds to the appeal, although it isn’t too explicit, the nudity of a cyborg is usually enough to make people look away from it. If you’ve never seen Ghost in the Shell, go check it out – Even the live action remake isn’t a bad attempt, if you can look past the controversies.
3) Blade – 1998
While it may only be a cinematic curiosity in terms of actual performance at the box office, it proved a lot of things to the money holders that would change the shape of cinema to come. It showed the power that an obscure comic book property could bring, it showed an R-rating didn’t have to be a death knell, it started a wheel turning for Marvel that would ultimately become a steamroller through a decade of film-making, we may have mentioned it once or twice.
The slick vampire-hunting action flick looks a little schlocky today, the CGI has aged badly, a few design choices look hackneyed, and yeah, I hate to say it, the acting gets pretty weak here and there. It was a great action film, and it did a great job of bringing – at least some of the comic book lore to life, and created a love affair with cool, leather-clad vampires that wasn’t going anywhere for many years either.
2) Galaxy Quest – 1999
Arguably the most nerdy entry on this list, as Galaxy Quest was a love letter to all of us geeks. Think about it; Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub and more big names. The series revolves around Jason Nesmith, Tim Allen, thriving off the attention of fan conventions. Meanwhile his co-stars were not so thrilled at their lead actor’s attention seeking. After all, their series, Galaxy Quest, was axed before it could take off.
Jason is taken away by a bunch of aliens and ends up portraying some events that would have taken place in their series. When he goes to tell his colleagues about this, naturally, they’re a bit miffed at the idea – but he pulls them along on his antics and oh my god, it’s a geek heaven. Just shy of our top spot, but in our hearts, it may be the best geek film of the 90’s, if not the best geek film ever. Still, there is one more film that might deserve the mantle of Top 90’s Geek Film…
1) The Matrix – 1999
Here’s a film that defined a decade, not the one it was made in, but a decade nonetheless. The Matrix was the biggest break for the Wachowski’s, and while they may have had a rocky time afterwards, they did also create a masterpiece that would be a meteor strike on special-effects, science fiction films and their attitudes towards dystopias, philosophy, and sweet leather jackets. I suspect the New Rock boot company owes them a thank-you card too.
Followed by a pair of less-good sequels, an animated compilation which was just superb, and an early attempt at an MMO which looked… good? It also became the subject of homage after homage and a dozen attempts to recapture the magic, like iRobot, Equilibrium and Minority Report. As a major vehicle for Keanu Reeves it also oversaw a long period of time where his acting skills were… shall we say judged harshly, but also raised his social profile and lifted him from the dopey Bill & Ted image.
Not that we’d be sad to see Bill & Ted come back. And we like Keanu a lot more now.
Whilst it’s true that the 90’s had some truly excellent films, we are focused purely on geek films. As such, the next two entries are either questionable for their geekiness, or weren’t… actually a film, but had to get a mention anyway. Both I think are worth checking out, so go on, put your feet up and throw on one of the movies mentioned below!
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Tim Burton really does have a way to weave and craft worlds; a twisted, but ultimately imaginative universe spans that man’s mind. There’s always an air of menace about his works, yet you feel compelled to be drawn in. So when we’re introduced to characters like Jack Skellington, we can’t help but love the little trickster. After all, he just wants to have a holiday as popular as Christmas is.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a strange choice for this week’s list. Technically, this wasn’t really made for a geek audience, but it quickly became a part of geek culture. The reason I’m throwing this one in is the animation style. It’s Burton-esque, which is to be expected, but the whole artistic and animation style on display is very unique. A true animation buff would probably be able to pick apart the film and explain exactly why it’s so compelling.
We briefly mentioned Jim Carrey as one of the faces that defined the decade, but if one were to hang the mantle of “cinema’s darling” on anyone it would have had to be the character of characters himself, the man who brought high-paced beauty to every performance. Here’s a heavily abbreviated highlight reel, and yes, we’ll have missed some:
Toys – Under appreciated as all hell, Williams plays a toymaker with the heart of a child willing to weaponize fun against corporate unpleasantness in all its caricatured horror.
Flubber – Robin stars opposite a hovering robot and a blob of CGI goo, and while they may have proven his equal, no non-animated character commanded the screen as well as he did.
Hook – Aged Peter Pan rediscovers life, love, and childhood wonder, and Williams gets to act alongside a bunch of kids. Must have been a dream job for the big kid himself.
Aladdin – Let’s not talk about Robin’s relationship with Disney, the part was written for him, he lived it, he immortalised it. Good luck to the poor, fading star who tries to fill those shoes.
Jumanji – Perhaps his most straight-laced performance in a family film, playing the tough survivor of a terrifying jungle dimension recapturing the world he left as a child.
Hey, I’m all out of popcorn! Ah well, we’ve finished all of the screenings. But at least the 90’s was absolutely chockablock with classics. Hey, remember The Spice Girls Movie from ‘97? Honestly, if you don’t, watch that to understand what a weird time the 90’s was. Nevertheless, before we get too nostalgic, go ahead and choose what our topic will be next week. Trust us, we want to get mad at something…
Before I can replenish my snacks and drinks, I guess it’s time to put away the movies we’ve just seen. A great geek film should be timeless and many of these films certainly sit up there. But what did you think of our list? Did we forget some important geek films, or do you think we got the main ones? What geek films did we miss out and where would they go on this list? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter.